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GIVEN HALF A CHANCE: Report Highlights Huge Gap in Graduation Rates Between Black Males and White Males

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"If black students did poorly in all schools, we would plausibly seek solutions to the problem of their achievement among those students themselves."

Over the past twenty-five years, the social, educational, and economic outcomes for black males have been “more systemically devastating” than the outcomes for any other racial or ethnic group or gender, according to a new report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education. The report, Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, examines the disturbingly large gaps in graduation rates between black males and while males. It also highlights the resource deficiencies that exist in schools that black males attend.

“This report sheds light on a national crisis and puts valuable information into the hands of public school advocates and stakeholders, who can use it to hold the stewards of the nearly 15,000 U.S. school districts accountable for eradicating systemic failure as well as open avenues of opportunity to millions of black male students,” said John Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education.

In examining graduation rates, the report finds a national graduation rate for black males (47 percent) that is 28 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for white males (75 percent). In ten states, the difference in graduation rates for black males and white males is 30 percentage points or more, as noted in the table below.

Largest Gaps in Black Male and White Male Graduation Rates

 

 State  Black Male Graduation Rate White Male Graduation Rate    Difference
Wisconsin

36%

87%

51%

Nebraska

44%

87%

43%

Illinois

40%

82%

42%

Michigan

33%

74%

41%

New York

39%

75%

36%

Connecticut

51%

83%

32%

Wyoming

41%

72%

31%

Oregon

58%

89%

31%

Indiana

43%

73%

30%

Ohio

49%

79%

30%

 

In addition to low graduation rates, black males also have “consistently low educational attainment levels, are more chronically unemployed and underemployed, are less healthy and have access to fewer health care resources, die much younger, and are many times more likely to be sent to jail for periods significantly longer than males of other racial/ethnic groups,” according to the report.

But in a few states the report finds that black males actually graduate at higher percentages than white males, for instance in North Dakota (89 percent to 84 percent), Vermont (88 percent to 75 percent), and Maine (85 percent to 75 percent. According to the report, schools in these states are more likely to have greater resources, such as talented, caring teachers, well-trained and numerous support staff, and protective and supportive administrators. They have challenging curricula, high expectations for all students, and an expectation of success. These states also share another characteristic: they all lack large black populations. According to the report, this is a key factor because black males in these states are more likely to be educated in a diverse educational environment. “This underscores the fact that when black males are given access to schools and resources similar to those given to white males their performance levels improve,” the report notes.

Turning its attention to school districts, the Schott Foundation finds that the worst problems for black students are concentrated in a few large metropolitan areas. In these districts, which contain racially segregated schools and are attended mostly by black students, very few students-of any race-perform well. But the report finds that there are irregularities between white and black students even within these schools. It notes that schools attended mostly by black students “do worse on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, suspend and expel disproportionately more black male students than white male students, and assign more black male students than white male students to special education.” Graduation rates in these districts are tragically low for both white and black males, as shown in the table below.

Lowest-Performing Large School Districts for Black Males

 

School District 

Black Male Graduation Rate 

White Male Graduation Rate  

Difference

Indianapolis (IN)

19%

19%

0%

Detroit (MI)

20%

17%

-3%

Norfolk (VA)

27%

44%

17%

Rochester (NY)

29%

36%

7%

Pinellas County (FL)

30%

50%

20%

Thankfully, some large school districts, although not many, do a good job of graduating black students. Specifically, the report points out Fort Bend, TX, which enrolls over ten thousand black males and graduates over 80 percent within four years, and two large suburban Maryland districts, Baltimore County and Montgomery County, which have large enrollments of black students and graduate them at a rate comparable to the national average for white male students.

“If black students did poorly in all schools, we would plausibly seek solutions to the problem of their achievement among those students themselves,” the report reads. “The same would be the case if, in schools with majority black enrollments, black students did poorly and the other students did well. But in reality, black students in good schools do well. At the same time, white students who attend schools where most of the students are black and their graduation rates are low, also do poorly.”

The complete report, which outlines the work that the Schott Foundation for Public Education will undertake over the next five years to change the current educational trajectory of black males, is available at http://blackboysreport.org/.

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